Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia announced yesterday that as of July 1, it will not hire any individual who smokes. According to a hospital spokesman, the ban on hiring smokers "demonstrates the hospital's commitment to good health."
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The same "commitment to good health" would also justify refusing to hire overweight individuals. Obesity is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, with health care costs that rival those related to cigarette smoking. If Gwinnett Medical Center feels it is necessary to hire only nonsmokers in order to demonstrate a commitment to health, then where is its policy requiring that prospective employees step on the scale before being hired and document that their body mass index is within healthy limits?
Where is the hospital's policy that prospective employees document that they eat nutritious diets, abstain from excessive alcohol use, exercise regularly, avoid unsafe sex, do not engage in sexually promiscuous behavior, use sunscreen, eat an appropriate amount of servings of fruit and vegetables, avoid tanning salons, refrain from use of smokeless tobacco products, and limit their exposure to secondhand smoke?
Some commitment to good health.
Obviously, Gwinnett Medical Center is not interested in a commitment to good health. What they are interested in is selectively discriminating against smokers by tying employment to lawful, private health behavior that has no direct relationship to job qualifications. They are interested in selectively interfering in employee privacy, going so far as to demand the submission of bodily fluids in order to document a personal behavior choice that a person makes in his own home which has no bearing on his ability to perform his job duties.
Not only does this policy represent employment discrimination, but it ensures that Gwinnett Medical Center will not have the most highly qualified workforce possible. It means that the hospital will be hiring less qualified applicants simply because they are nonsmokers.
I don't question the hospital's legal right to establish this policy, but I do question the sincerity of its "commitment to health," its hypocrisy, and its lack of respect for basic individual rights and employee privacy.